The Evolution of Self-Organized Social Solidarity (SoSS) Initiatives in Greece and Their Relationship to Online Media: A Longitudinal Research

The Evolution of Self-Organized Social Solidarity (SoSS) Initiatives in Greece and Their Relationship to Online Media: A Longitudinal Research

Eleni-Revekka Staiou (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece) and Dimitris Gouscos (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5966-5.ch009

Abstract

Since the beginning of the economic crisis in Greece, the first impacts were felt on standards of everyday living. Citizens felt the urge to self-organize and take action based on their own strengths as the only practical solution to fill in the gaps left by the state's absence of intervention. Rooted in the country's economic crisis, Greek citizens' self-organized social solidarity (SoSS) initiatives have been focused on acting and innovating rather than protesting. Examples of such initiatives are social grocery stores, alternative currencies, time banks, neighborhood groups for sanitation and general caretaking, assistance to students in primary/secondary education to name a few. The main objective of this chapter is to show the evolution of SoSS initiatives through a longitudinal research for the period 2014-2016. Α second objective is to present the relationship between these initiatives and the online media: How did they use the internet and the social media for their communication for the same period of time? Finally, the authors will attempt an assessment of their operation so far, with data obtained from updating the platform Organosi 2.0, in the summer of 2017.
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Introduction

Since 2009, when the economic crisis in Greece became more evident, many changes occurred in the country, one of them being the further development of civil society. The State had (and still has) severe problems in generating funds and helping its citizens at the same time. The combination of high taxes and low or no income at all created a new reality for most people and new needs emerged in everyday life.

In the beginning, civil society tried to protest through strikes and demonstrations, but soon realized that this was not the right way of acting since it led to no practical effects. People decided to act and in many neighborhoods the so-called “people assemblies” were formed, with indignant citizens discussing the problems and the deficiencies of the state and proposing solutions.

However, the problems of society and citizens were far more serious and required action. Therefore, citizens started to self-organize in order to solve as many problems they could. Several problems were crucial for survival (e.g. food). Further to this, many other aspects of everyday life which were dependent on the state, began to become independent from bureaucracy and public-sector organizations (e.g. neighborhood sanitation or student lessons). Therefore, a number of self-organized social solidarity (SoSS) initiatives have emerged. Some of the initiatives have been inspired by organizations abroad (e.g. systems for alternative currencies). Most initiatives do not have the need of state support to function. Even those that do, are kept alive through the help of citizens.

So, in Greece, in a way, a new kind of citizen was created, what according to Bang (2010) should be called “Everyday maker”. This citizen creates politics in his everyday life. He is not an activist, nor is he organized in a political party, he does not belong to an organization and he is much more flexible. He focuses on specific goals and he is not meant to be politically successful or to influence others. He does not like professional politicians, but he prefers to solve his own problems, in practical ways, and asks for the help of the system only when it is necessary. Before, according to Soritopoulos and Karamagioli (2005) civil society in Greece was “relatively underdeveloped and poorly organized […], comparatively weak”. There were many initiatives, but Greek civil society was still influenced by political parties. Even the non-governmental organizations created at times in Greece were, in fact, lobbying groups in relation to political parties (Tsaliki, 2010).

A first objective of this article is to define these initiatives that emerged in Greece during the crisis and to show their evolution in the period 2014-2016, ending with the stage they are in, in 2017. The second objective is to study their use of the Internet and online media for communication with renewed statistics from the original 2014 survey.

For both these objectives, our discussion departs from a brief contextualization of our work within the broader agenda of technology- and organization-related issues for IT use by voluntary non-profit and non-governmental organizations. This discussion is useful to keep in mind, as our presentation moves on to the landscape of self-organized social solidarity initiatives in Greece.

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